Once again it was Tony's Book World that moved me to listen to this book by his review of Rose Tremain's most recent book The Gustav Sonata. I was in the market for an audiobook and after reading the comments on his review, settled on this one. The varying opinions about Rose Tremain's books by three of my most revered bloggers (ANZ LitLovers, Reading Matters Blog, and Tony) was enlightening.
Given my current state of angst about the future of our democracy, I was initially concerned that the venality of all the characters would make me feel worse. But ultimately it was a truly satisfying plot.
Anthony Verey, now in his 60s, feels his life is at an end. The economy reduced the income from his very high end London antique business to almost nothing, the attention he received as an arbiter of perfect taste has ceased, and he has lost interest in hiring beautiful young men for sexual favors. He spends his time remembering the most perfect afternoon of his life: serving tea to his mother and sister in a treehouse. He calls his favored antiques his "beloveds."
Victoria, Anthony's older sister, lives in the Cévennes region of southeastern France. She was very happy growing up as she loved her horse Susan more than anyone. She creates beautiful gardens and is currently working on a book to be titled "Gardening Without Rain" with her lover Kitty, a not-too-talented watercolorist.
And there's the most despicable character, Aramon Lunel. When Aramon's mother died, the father and Aramon began sexually abusing his sister Audrun. The father willed the great stone house to Aramon and a forest to Audrun. She built a bungalow near the stone house (the Mas Lunel). Aramon has taken slovenliness to a new level; his method for washing clothes involves rain. Audrun is not able to live a normal life and has her spells, but has more abilities than we first realize.
When Aramon decides to sell the Mas to those invading Brits, Audrun begins to plot his murder for this terrible betrayal. She has observed that the one remaining wing of the Mas has a formidable crack, probably caused by the plunder of the stone of the two wings undertaken by her father. Aramon then covers the crack without repairing it.
Anthony decamps from London to his sister's house in France with an eye to making a new life and Kitty is displaced. When he expresses interest in buying a venerable old house, the prospect of one unpleasant person screwing over another one comes into view. Audrun is unwilling to let this happen and let's just say one unpleasant person dies and another unpleasant person goes to jail. Eventually a fire cleanses the land where the Mas Lunel was.
There is one character whose life is likely to improve after the traumatic events. A child has not recovered from her displacement from her beloved life in Paris after her parents moved to the Cévennes region. When she is traumatized by finding a body, her teacher is moved to reach out to her in a way that will help with the former problem, as well as the latter.
The plot and storytelling are perfection. That explains why I, a person who prefers to know an author loves her characters, loved this book. There is a touch of humor, a distance from the characters, and a resolution that makes it work. Can't wait to read more by her.
Rose Tremain, Trespass, W.W. Norton, 2010, 253 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available from the UVa library, from the public library as a downloadable audiobook, and from Amazon.